Around 1200 people took part in the first ever Race to the King, a 53.5mile ultra marathon along the South Downs Way to Winchester Cathedral last weekend.
Men and women of all ages, fitness levels and running abilities ran, jogged and walked the beautiful route with outstanding views across the South of England, through glorious sunshine and thunderstorms to reach the finish at Winchester Cathedral, the burial place of the first kings of England. Some took the route non-stop while others stayed overnight at the basecamp.
The event raised £32,000 including gift aid for the official charity, Save the Children, through online giving.
The winner was Joanna Zakrzewski, 40, a GP from Dumfries, and a member of Team GB, who completed the course in 7:57 hours. Michael Robinson, who won the men’s race, finished in 8:15 hours.
Among the rest of the field were the Pink Gorilla, who was raising awareness of the 1820 Foundation which supports the Armed Forces; #TeamVodafone who have collectively walked 7,500 miles and raised nearly £200,000 for the Voadafone Foundation partners UNHCR, Télécoms Sans Frontières and the Malala Fund; first-time ultra runner, mother of two and tax advisor, Ciara Davies; Carl Adams, the founder of Nature’s Gym which helps ex offenders and addicts through exercise outside; and Danny Grewcock MBE, the retired English rugby union rugby lock who played for Bath, England and the British and Irish Lions and who walked the route with Julian Mack, the founder of Threshold Sports which organises Race to the King.
Joanna took up running when, as an expedition and race doctor on a trip to South America, she thought it might be more fun to run. She took part in the Atacama Crossing – and won it. The following year she was given a wild card entry at the World Championships in the 50km and 100km and won the Silver medal. She has never looked back.
“I think I’m quite good at pacing,” she says. “I start slower but I usually end up overtaking many others. I’m not competitive with other people, but I am with myself. I don’t mind if I’m overtaken, as I’m not trying to race individuals.“
“The Race to the King was a brilliant day. It’s a beautiful part of the world, the route was well sign-posted, the terrain was good with a bit of everything, which helps a quick recovery because you’re using different muscles, and all of it was runnable – you didn’t have to scramble anywhere – which was really good.
“I also loved that the people who took part were all different shapes and sizes, enjoying completing the route at a range of different paces.”
The Pink Gorilla, the mascot of the 1820 Foundation, which was established to support the Armed Forces community in the UK, ran and walked Race to the King over two days.
The rare appearance of The Pink Gorilla at Race to the King 2016 follows rare sightings in 2015 when it was spotted at a black tie fundraising dinner in Marble Arch, in Las Vegas at a boxing match and more recently in March this year at a Premiership Rugby game.
“The Race to the King was very well organized,” he says. “Being part of the ape family, I can be mischievous and quite hard to please but thought that the race marshalling, pit stops and signposting was exceptional. As a gorilla, I consume 50+ bananas per marathon and my needs were provided for in abundance. Overall an excellent event, raising the profile of a very worthy cause.”
For Carl Adams, the founder of Nature’s Gym in Kent, which helps ex offenders and addicts recover through exercise outside, the Race to the King was his first Ultra. “It was brilliant!” he says. “I loved every minute of it. Thunder storms made it more dramatic. I discovered that when you learn to sit with pain, amazing things happen. The only trouble is, I want more. I’m scouring the ultra calendar now.”
Ciara, who finished in 16:36 hours says: “I am feeling pretty pleased with myself. It was way tougher than I thought it was going to be. The first 22 miles in the sunshine, I felt fab and was flying along! The latter parts where it was too muddy to even walk properly were fairly soul destroying, but I suppose overcoming that sort of thing is kind of the point.
“The last few hours in the dark and mud were horrendous and if you had asked me then, there was no way I was even running a 5K again, never mind an Ultra, but I forgot all of that as soon as I finished. The crew couldn’t have been nicer, the food and facilities were great.
“The whole experience has been overwhelmingly positive – the sense of achievement, the camaraderie and making new friends with a similar outlook. Also, I am not really an egotistical person, but it is quite nice having so many people telling me how amazing I am and I definitely feel it!”
You can find out more about Race to the King here: www.racetotheking.com
If you are on the hunt for your next challenge, then you are in luck! Threshold Sports award winning ultra marathon, Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones is less than two weeks away and there are still spaces remaining.
Join us for a 100km walk / run / jog along the iconic Ridgeway trail: www.racetothestones.com